Podcast Episode 2: Civil War Mourning with Samantha McCarty

Hello All!

We’re excited to announce our “second” episode of Fashion History with American Duchess! Today, we are chatting with the lovely Samantha McCarty of The Couture Courtesan all about mourning dress during the American Civil War. I (Abby) have been lucky enough to listen to Samantha lecture on this subject on two separate occasions, and I still was completely enthralled by the wealth of knowledge that Samantha shared on the subject for the podcast.

Samantha in Half-Mourning while attending Gettysburg Remembrance Day

Here are some example images & links to fabrics so you can make your own mourning attire:

Click Here to buy a modern (silk) crape substitute that Samantha recommends.

For worsted wool you can check out – Burnley & Trowbridge & Mood Fabrics

Full or Deep Mourning
Woman in Full Mourning. Courtesy of Samantha
Woman in Full Mourning with widow’s cap and lappets (Courtesy of Samantha)
Woman in Full Mourning from New York. (Ebay)
English woman wearing a widow’s cap with crape “folds” around the skirt of her dress, you can also see her white collar like what Samantha mentions! (Here)

Samantha wearing Full Mourning with her veil pulled down.

Examples of Half or Light Mourning

Samantha in a cotton Half Mourning Dress

Half Mourning Dress from North Carolina Museum of History

Black and Purple Silk Dress, 1860, MFA Boston
Samantha in a silk taffeta half-mourning dress (Here)

Mourning Accessories

Mourning Corsage of Abraham Lincoln, April 1865, Met Museum

Framed in Memorial Hair Art, 1850, French, Etsy

1880 Black Enamel & 18k Gold Memorial Ring, Erstwhile Jewelry
Victorian Gutta-Percha & Gold Mourning Earrings, Ruby Lane

Victorian Mourning Brooch with Acorn Motif, Whitby Jet, Amazing Adornments
We hope you enjoy the episode! 


  • Mylene Richard

    May 17, 2017 at 1:20 AM

    About the purple color, it's the darkest color, opposite to the sunny yellow. It might be why it was a good choice for half-mourning.

    Also, in 1857 the first man-made dye became available, mauveine. It was a lot cheaper than getting purple pigment out of a specific shells in Europe, so it get really popular. Even the queen Victoria was wearing a dress dyed with it at the Royal Exhibition in 1862.

    It fell out of fashion at the end of the 1860's so at the time of the civil war, 1861 to 1865, it was all the rage.

    More info : http://www.ch.ic.ac.uk/motm/perkin.html

  • Château de Brouillon

    October 24, 2019 at 11:28 AM

    As for the symbolism of purple, could it have been the most appropriate color for half mourning because of the fact that it's the color of healing bruises and wounds ?

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